Heroin addicts seeking treatment to double
THE Government has been accused of failing in its drugs policy again after figures showed the numbers seeking treatment for heroin addiction is on course to double this year.
More than 9,000 people received methadone treatment from January to May, just 500 fewer than the total number for 2007 and 400 more than the whole of 2005.
Figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) show more than 450 addicts around the country are on waiting lists of up to 21 months.
The Merchant’s Quay Project, which helps addicts, said the Government has not learnt from mistakes made in Dublin, as problems experienced in the capital in previous decades are being repeated in other towns.
Chief executive Tony Geoghan said the figures “certainly show the inadequacy in the treatment system”. From January to May 2008 there were 9,287 people seeking treatment including 2,767 women and 6,520 men. If this rate continues throughout 2008, the number seeking treatment will be double that of last year.
The numbers seeking methadone treatment has already almost doubled in the past decade from 4,215 in 1997 to 9,760 in 2007.
There are 450 addicts on waiting lists of the HSE’s Methadone Treatment Programme, including more than 100 heroin addicts who’ve been waiting at least one and a half years for treatment at Cork’s only public treatment clinic at Arbour House.
A further 31 addicts in Waterford have been waiting almost two years for treatment for opiate dependency.
Figures were provided by the HSE in recent weeks in response to a series of Dáil questions to Health Minister Mary Harney.
In response to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) the HSE’s National Drugs Strategy Coordinator, Joe Doyle, said there are a number of reasons for long waiting lists, including the willingness of GPs to take part in training programmes and the capacity of premises to cope with numbers presenting.
It cost the State more than €14 million to provide methadone treatment last year.